In Canada, drug charges are regulated under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) instead of the Criminal Code of Canada. The CDSA prohibits a number of drug-related activities including possession, possession for the purpose of trafficking, importation, and production. All charges end up in court but how they proceed from there can vary depending on the circumstances.

When facing a charge of drug possession, it’s important to consult with a lawyer to ensure your rights are represented and that you proceed with actions that are in your best interest.

What Are the Different Sentences for Drug Charges?

Drug charges are treated seriously in Canada and the penalties for drug possession vary depending on the type and quantity of the drug as well as the circumstances surrounding the offender, including their criminal record.

When it comes to drug types, the CDSA classifies them using the following structure:

  • Schedule I: Heroin, cocaine, opium, fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone, methamphetamine, and amphetamines.
  • Schedule II: Synthetic cannabinoids and cannabis derivatives such as hashish.
  • Schedule III: LSD and magic mushrooms.
  • Schedule IV: Barbiturates, diazepam, anabolic steroids, and benzodiazepine.
  • Schedule VI: Class A Precursors

The court has the discretion to impose a sentence between the minimum and maximum penalties outlined in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.


Simply put, drug possession is the crime of having one or more illegal drugs in your possession. 

The penalty for possession of Schedule I, II, and III drugs is the same: a fine up to $1000 or maximum imprisonment of six months, or both.

For subsequent offences, the fine and maximum term increases.


Trafficking is a serious drug offence and refers to selling, transporting, delivering illegal substances.

For Schedule I and II drugs, sentencing depends on specific circumstances such as if the use of violence was involved while trafficking. There are mandatory minimum terms but trafficking Schedule 1 and 11 drugs could result in life in prison.

Schedule II and V drugs, however, could land you a sentence of 18 months to 10 years. Schedule IV drugs have a potential sentence of up to one year or a maximum sentence of three years.


You can also be charged for producing illegal substances. For Schedule I and II drugs, you could face life in prison or a minimum of two years for Schedule I drugs and one year for Schedule II drugs.

The sentences of Schedule III and IV drugs can vary depending on how the Crown proceeds with the case and there is no mandatory minimum punishment.

Importing and Exporting

If you are caught bringing drugs into the country or sending them out of the country, there are harsh penalties for this crime.

For Schedule I and II drugs, the maximum sentence is life in prison with the minimum sentence being determined by specific factors outlined in the CDSA.

The maximum terms for Schedule III and IV drugs again depend on how the Crown proceeds and as no minimum punishment.

Other Drug Charges

  • Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking
  • Criminal Conspiracy
  • Organized Crime

Bail Hearings and Drug Possession

Following an arrest for drug possession, you may be held by police in their custody. In this case, you must appear before the justice of the peace for a bail hearing within 24 hours of being arrested (or as soon as possible).

At the bail hearing, it will be decided whether you should be released or held in custody until your trial.

If you are released on bail, the justice of the peace may enforce conditions until your trial date.

Prior to appearing before the justice of the peace, it is imperative that you contact a lawyer to represent you and protect your rights during your bail hearing.